Daily Devotion for January 8, 2014
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
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Prayer for God to Abide with Us
Dear Lord, as I come before you this morning, my spirit is filled with thanks that you have given me a life and filled it with meaning. Knowing that you have a purpose for me is such a gift as I cannot express; even when the world or my own thoughts fill me with feelings of worthlessness, I can turn to you and know, fully certain, that you are in charge and have filled my existence with meaning and purpose I cannot fully understand.
Lord Christ, you promised that if we love you and obey your teaching, you and the Father will make your home with us; I declare my love for you; and there is nothing I want more than to have you live with me, present in my life. Help me to follow your teaching in every way; for you have given us grace, that by your death and resurrection, we may be perfect before you. Accept my love and be with me, today and always, I pray; not by my merit, but by your grace, oh Christ, oh one true God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
[Let us close our eyes for a minute, and think about what it means that God is in charge.]
Strength of my Heart
Strength of my heart, I need not fail,
Not mine to fear but to obey,
With such a Leader, who could quail?
Thou art as Thou wert yesterday.
Strength of my heart, I rest in Thee,
Fulfil Thy purposes through me.
Let me not forget my prayers as I go out into the world. Holy Spirit, be with me, and let me praise you and remember you in my every action and thought, for the entire day long. In Christ's name I ask this,
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
Proverbs 6:27-29 (NASB)
Can a man snatch up fire in his bosom
And his clothes not be burned?
Or can a man walk on hot coals
And his feet not be scorched?
So is the one who goes in to his neighbor’s wife;
Whoever touches her will not go unpunished.
Matthew 14:22-33 (ESV)
Jesus Takes Peter by the Hand
Directly after this Jesus insisted on his disciples’ getting aboard their boat and going on ahead to the other side, while he himself sent the crowds home. And when he had sent them away he went up the hill-side quite alone, to pray.
When it grew late he was there by himself while the boat was by now a long way from the shore at the mercy of the waves, for the wind was dead against them. In the small hours Jesus went out to them, walking on the water of the lake. When the disciples caught sight of him walking on the water they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and screamed with fear. But at once Jesus spoke to them. “It’s all right! It’s I myself, don’t be afraid!”
“Lord, if it’s really you,” said Peter, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come on, then,” replied Jesus.
Peter stepped down from the boat and did walk on the water, making for Jesus. But when he saw the fury of the wind he panicked and began to sink, calling out, “Lord save me!”
At once Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying, “You little-faith! What made you lose your nerve like that?” Then, when they were both aboard the boat, the wind dropped. The whole crew came and knelt down before Jesus, crying, “You are indeed the Son of God!”
Notes on the Scripture
Why did Jesus command his disciples to depart and then isolate himself, away from his followers? In modern terms, “he had the crowd”. If He wanted to spread the Gospel, this would seem the opportune moment to consolidate his organization.
There is one reason we know and another we might infer. The known reason is given to us in John 6:15 “Then Jesus, realizing that they were going to carry him off and make him their king, retired once more to the hill-side quite alone.” The crowd, expecting a Messiah who would sit on throne of David, had become a mob and would have tried to force Christ into politics, the exact opposite of God's plan.
The second, inferential reason is related, for we see throughout all four gospels that Christ introduces himself as the Son of God gradually. God plans that Jesus will build a foundation of knowledge and introduce his teaching to the world one step at a time, at a pace at which it can be accepted and understood correctly. Even in the three years He took to make himself fully known, his closest disciple, Peter, would not be able to grasp Christ's meaning until after the Resurrection.
Even today, Christianity is hard to understand; not because it is intellectually complex, but because it is contrary to people's preconceptions. Change is difficult; and Christianity, being a radical change from every human being's natural core beliefs, is radically difficult to grasp.
Jesus walking on water has to be high on the list of his best-known acts, so here is a big surprise: It might not have happened. The Greek original of Matthew's text can just as correctly be translated to say that Jesus walked to the edge of the water and called to his disciples from shore! The Greek is ambiguous. But like the translation of John 3:16, the interpretation that He walked out onto the water has become so ingrained in Christian tradition that no Bible would dare say otherwise. And, in fairness, the “walked on water” translation is perfectly justified and the context would seem to support it.
So, does it make a difference to you one way or the other? The really important lessons to the story are not Jesus performing a magic trick, but rather, first, his leaving his prayers to come to the aid of his disciples. He will come to us in our time of need. It is harder to grasp that the God of billions of galaxies, each with billions of planets, at least one of which has billions of inhabitants, would deign to come to the assistance of one little person: but Jesus, time and again, shows us that He will.
Secondly, He calms their fears. One of the benefits of Christian belief is that, the deeper your faith, the less fear you live with. Even when Peter loses faith, Jesus reaches out and takes his hand. We remember when He reached out his hand to touch the leper. These events inform the old hymn, Precious Lord, Take My Hand. When we sink into fear or despair, Jesus will wield the mighty power of God to take us by the hand. And He takes Peter's hand, even in a moment of loss of faith. It is the primary message of Christianity: Jesus will reach out to us personally and save us from our sin.